Cyberpunk 2077’s current consumer catastrophe, explained

24 December 2020 - 08:07 By Darryn Bonthuys
Cyberpunk 2077 is a 2020 action role-playing video game developed and published by CD Projekt. The story takes place in Night City, an open world set in the Cyberpunk universe.
Cyberpunk 2077 is a 2020 action role-playing video game developed and published by CD Projekt. The story takes place in Night City, an open world set in the Cyberpunk universe.
Image: Supplied

We definitely did not spend enough time looking at that. I wouldn’t say that we felt any external or internal pressure to launch on the date – other than the normal pressure, which is typical for any release. So that was not the cause. In terms of the certification process and the third parties – this is definitely on our side.

We round out our console Cyberpunk tests with a look at Xbox One systems. No question, base Xbox One has the biggest mountain to climb of last-gen systems spec-wise — but how close can it get to holding 30fps? And what upgrades does Xbox One X get, beyond support for 4K TVs? Tom and Rich take a look at their delivery next to PS4 systems - plus a quick test of patch 1.04 performance.

If you want to see just how bad Cyberpunk 2077 currently is on last-gen, take a look at Digital Foundry’s wrap-up, which calls the game an unacceptable hodge-podge of dropped frame and drastically reduced screen resolution at the best of times.

The refund policy is a joke

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Cyberpunk 2077’s launch has also highlighted just how broken the entire process for returning a video game is. Physical retailers have always been notoriously stiff on the refund process, flatout refusing to take anything back even if it’s a completely buggered experience, while digital downloads come with their own pitfalls.

Yes, Sony, Steam, and Xbox do have processes for returning a game, but you’d have better luck teaching a cat to take a bath. At this point, Sony’s not even entertaining refunds and is instead urging consumers to wait for future patches. Joint-CEO Marcin Iwinski said, “We are not encouraging gamers to return to the game. We hope they will give us a chance to improve the game on the original consoles. There was one fix last weekend. There is another coming in seven days. But there is an option.”

“You have to understand, Microsoft and Sony, for every product that is released digitally on their storefronts have refund policies. Despite various articles that have shown up, that things are being opened just for us, It’s actually not true,” Nowakowski added.

 
 

“These policies are in place and have always been in place. They are not opened up specifically for us. Anybody who has purchased any title on PlayStation Network or Microsoft’s storefront can ask for a refund.

While CDPR does have an email you can contact them at for a refund, for many gamers faced with the harsh reality of a broken video game return policy across the world, they’re shit out of luck.

CDPR no longer looks untouchable

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In an industry where every big AAA game release comes with many strings attached to it, CDPR built up a reputation as the last of the good guys. The studio and publisher that wanted to make a good game first, massive profits a distant second. Their approach to DLC and monetisation was something to be lauded, an approach that we wished that other companies would emulate.

Eight years for a big-budget video game is nothing if you believe that the end product will justify the wait, but then came stories of CDPR enforcing a crunch policy to finally get Cyberpunk 2077 out. There were stories of how employees were enticed to crunch on the game in exchange for tokens that would reward them with bonuses if certain criteria were met.

Mercifully Cyberpunk 2077’s requirement for a high Metacritic score being tied to employee bonuses was terminated after the game launched. The review process itself was incredibly dodgy, as our own NDA for the Cyberpunk 2077 review prohibited us from showing any original gameplay capture before the official launch date. Usually for video reviews, a publisher will ask us not to show any glitches as a day one patch normally sorts them out. There’ll also be restrictions of using certain story content in videos, but the general meat and potatoes experience is fair game.

Not being allowed to show any footage save for B-roll content and not being allowed to mention that either? Our warning bells were ringing pretty hard when we spotted that on the NDA form.

It’s a crushing blow to the psyche though, because seeing CDPR in this position, is like realising that your dad isn’t invincible. It’s a devastating blow to your morale to see the last holdout in a semi-monopolised AAA game development space reduced to a state that you’ve seen so many times before, tarnished armor on a single knight who for many years carried a flag of excellence and care for its consumers.

This isn’t a slight against the people working in the trenches at CDPR, legions of individuals who toiled away for months and years on a project and had to deal with management that wanted to push the product out well before it was ready. Right now, CDPR is paying the price for that attitude, as the poor launch has had an impact on CD Projekt Red’s stock value, hitting its founders net worth hard with $1 billion loss in only a few days.

People are tired after the year from hell

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It’s sad that by now, we’re used to this. A big game launches, fans rush in to have a good time and are met with a product that is horribly broken. We saw this with Anthem last year, Marvel’s Avengers failed on multiple levels to be a fun time, and Cyberpunk 2077 may be the straw that broke the camel’s back.

In a year that has taken a massive toll on the psyches of people who have had to sacrifice so much, holding out for Cyberpunk 2077 was the last flicker of hope in a terrible trip around the sun. Knowing that you’d have a game from a company that made a name for itself by being consumer-friendly was a powerful beacon to rally around…and then the end result was an alright dive into a world that can best be described as a horny version of Skyrim that spent far too much time watching Blade Runner.

Yes, I absolutely understand how weird it must sound that a buggy video game was a mental breaking point for many, but that’s the world we live in. When your options for existence revolve around megalomaniacal idiots winning their way into the highest office of the land, a high chance of catching a highly-virulent plague, a world that is slowly burning due to societal neglect and late-stage capitalism running amok while making life miserable for everyone else, you need some escapism.

And being let down like that at the eleventh hour? It’s no wonder that people are upset. Cyberpunk 2077 will likely cement its legacy as having one of the rockiest launches in video game history ever, CDPR will recover its stock value in time, and we’ll probably get mad at another upcoming game for the silliest of reasons in 2021 because that’s how the wheel turns.

But for now, the 2020 gaming calendar is going to end on a disappointing note, a soul-crushing bodyslam that was eight years in the making.


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